It had just rained and the sky had cleared. These three Great Blue Heron fledgelings were about 6 weeks old.
These largest of the North American Herons have a small rookery of 6 nests/pairs out in the Cottonwoods. Nests built high over one of our wetlands lakes. These young birds are less than 10 weeks old and probably more than 7 weeks. They are nearly fully feathered but weren’t flying at that point. They were waiting “patiently” for both parents to come back and feed them. Almost ready to leave the rookery, these juveniles were stretching, flapping and otherwise exercising their wings.
Great Blue Herons always nest within a few miles of their hunting grounds. This colony is around a string of small ponds. I’ve seen them hunt the shores for years but have yet to catch one spearing a fish with that sharp beak. Adults are masters of the air. I’ve seen them landing on branches 50 feet up that don’t look like they could hold the 5 pound bird. These are very BIG birds with standing 5 feet tall. They sport a 5 foot wingspan. Coming in at just a few mph using the wind to literally float down for a landing. Graceful to say the least. These guys will be lucky if they don’t get wet the first time they fly starting over a lake lolol.
As a species they have been flying a while. Their Dinosaurian ancestry is obviously clear in these close up images. Just add some teeth and a tail and you’d have an Avian Dinosaur. They all didn’t die at the end of the Cretaceous.
Square Aspect Ratio. 18x18in
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (the Heron rookery in the wetlands)
These 3 Great Blue Heron Fledges are 50 feet up a Cottonwood Tree. These are not common birds here on the high plains but they do come to roost and breed each spring. Our ranches wetlands have our share of Heron Breeding Pairs. These three are about 40 days old fledglings not yet flying but getting most of their adult feathers in. I don’t see them much on up in the drylands. Only near the ponds.
I did have at least one come onto my deck without my knowledge ….where I have had a 500 gallon tank (built into the deck 20 years ago) full of Japanese Koi that were about a foot long. It was almost entirely hidden from above by a choke cherry bush of some prestigious proportions. The heron obviously saw right through my ponds came and ate all dozen of the big ornamental gold fish I had kept in that tank for 14 years. This was a few years back and my replacements are about 8 inches long plus the choke cherry bush is more covering…… (I’m assuming it was a heron since I saw one in the yard the next day which is a rare sighting indeed here). I have photos of him flying off somewhere in my files lol.
I’ve not seen them about the nesting area since late July. This image from June of 2019. These guys were also a football field away from the vantage I had on an adjacent ridge to get this level look at the tree tops. Add a very long lens and you get “up close and personal” if you will.
Early on I can see most of the nesting in this 1/8 long mile extended cottonwood tree line. Habitants included a great horned owl and chick this year in addition to the Heron Rookery… I love this place’s diversity of subject matter.